I just returned from a four-week volunteer trip in Sri Lanka. It was the longest I had ever gone abroad, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to fit everything I’d need into one suitcase. But then I thought about the incredible people who travel for months on end with nothing but a backpack. I wasn’t going to be that hardcore but I told myself I’d make it work.
Of course I’m no pro, but I thought I’d share how an amateur, up-and-coming traveler like me managed to pack for four-weeks of work in another country. Keep reading!
First thing’s first: let’s talk about the suitcase I used. At the Sears Canada closing sale, I managed to score a Heys Canada hardtop suitcase for 75% off. It’s a good size, not too big or small– I hate giant suitcases that are so easy to load with items and go over the weight limit.
The two sides of the suitcase are separated by a zip-up divider, so I opted to put all my clothes in one side and everything else in the other in order to keep things neat and tidy. My biggest tip for packing clothing, which you probably already knew, is to roll your clothes instead of folding them. This saves so much space!
In terms of what clothes I packed; I did pretty well with determining what I’d need, but not at determining how many of each item. For example, I brought 2 black maxi-skirts– 1 would have been fine. I brought 7 tank tops/undershirts– 2 or 3 would have been plenty. I failed to consider that I’d be able to wash clothes! There was no need to pack that much. Same goes for t-shirts and underwear. Don’t waste your luggage space with duplicates if you will be able to do laundry (even in the sink!).
Two words: packing cubes. I’ve seen influencers rave about these things for years now and I finally decided to jump on the bandwagon. It was worth it. I was able to maintain a level of organization with all of my toiletries and accessories by sorting them into different sized cubes. I had one for sunscreen and bug spray; one for bathroom toiletries such as shampoo, razors, and face cloths; one for meds; and one for hair care. The level of neatness and organization these things provided was so satisfying. You can buy them at most major luggage retailers or on Amazon!
Ladies, pack your hygiene products into the zip-up pockets in the lining of your suitcase. Most suitcases have them (I never saw a purpose for them until now) and this is a really discreet and space-saving way to pack these kinds of items!
Another really obvious, but important tip is to fill travel sized bottles with all your products instead of bringing the full-sized packaging. Use them for shampoo, conditioner, body wash, moisturizer, and laundry detergent! I also use the small ones for tiny things like earrings and hair elastics.
Here is the finished product. What did I learn after packing this suitcase and then taking it on my trip?
- Don’t pack duplicates of everything. Especially towels! Why did I pack three towels and six facecloths? Why? I know laundry sucks, but just do it. You’ll thank yourself.
- Use packing cubes, fill travel bottles, roll your clothes– do all the tips and hacks that major travel bloggers and influencers recommend because they really do know their stuff.
- Don’t skimp on the first-aid kit. That bright red badboy almost didn’t make the cut during packing, but I used it for myself and my friends way more than anticipated. To say it came in handy is an understatement.
- Invest in a good suitcase. I was lucky to get a sale price and you should try to too, but unless you want to drag your suitcase with only one wheel or have your stuff falling out all over the airport, I suggest you drop a few dollars on something sturdy.
Bonus round: I was proud of my carry-on suitcase packing too, so here’s a quick blurb about it for those who care. I packed all my books, electronics, important documents, and some snacks and toiletries into my carry-on. Pro-travelers would say ditch the books and get a kindle– but I’m too old-fashioned, haha. I also packed an empty water bottle so once I got through security I could find a fountain and fill-up instead of paying outrageous airport prices for water (and save the planet too!)
What are your best packing tips?! Let us know in the comments below, email us, or reach out on social media @twowildtides! We really love hearing from our readers!